Compassion Without Borders

Walt Whitman students greeted each visiting high school with a t-shirt and a healthy breakfast courtesy of the South Huntington Catering Services. thumbnail104030
Walt Whitman students greeted each visiting high school with a t-shirt and a healthy breakfast courtesy of the South Huntington Catering Services.
The United States Army led team-building activities in various rooms allowing students to discover more about their personal leadership styles. thumbnail104031
The United States Army led team-building activities in various rooms allowing students to discover more about their personal leadership styles.
Keynote speaker James Orrigo’s motivational presentation inspired the leadership audience by using music, personal stories and videos. thumbnail104032
Keynote speaker James Orrigo’s motivational presentation inspired the leadership audience by using music, personal stories and videos.
One of the activities had students tied up in a knot and collaboration was the only way out. thumbnail104033
One of the activities had students tied up in a knot and collaboration was the only way out.

On Thursday, November 15th, Walt Whitman High School hosted the 10th annual Compassion Without Borders (CWB) Student Leadership Conference. CWB founder Dr. David Bennardo, a Harborfields Principal at the time, and now South Huntington Superintendent, shared how “sometimes beautiful things come from struggle and tragedy,” as he reflected on the program that was designed to galvanize the collective energies of the incredible students across Suffolk County.

It was 2009 and the Suffolk County High School Principal’s Association (SCHSPA) under the direction of its president, Edward Casswell, reached out to assist Harborfield’s student Dylan Thompson who was afflicted with Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy. The SCHSPA along with neighboring parent-teacher groups and empathetic students from various high schools helped to turn Dylan’s life around by easing some of the burden faced by him and his family. Under the direction of SCHSPA, student leaders from various schools across the island showed how leadership and compassion can make a difference in the life of one individual and his family.

At this year’s 10th anniversary of CWB, leadership students from over 40 high schools heard from keynote speaker James Origgo who instilled the idea of discovering one’s passion and using that, along with the use of their own creativity, to help others in need. Each year there is a ‘Compassion’ component to the conference, and this year students supported ‘Operation Enduring Care’ sponsored by American Legion Post #1244 and ‘The Rucksack March’ sponsored by the United States Army.

The United States Army also conducted leadership workshops for students to break out into mixed groups to engage in physical team building activities to discover more about their personal leadership styles. “We have a quiz that breaks down leadership qualities into four main categories and each student gets to see how their strengths apply,” said Sargent Byrnes from the Smithtown Army Recruiting Station. “Sometimes they fit one category, more often they fit two and sometimes more, but it helps you see where your strengths and weaknesses are, based on how you answer these 25 questions.”

Students also had the opportunity to reconvene over lunch with other students from their schools in an art-making exercise that was reflective of the day’s theme. Thank you to all of the schools, from Bay Shore to Wilson Tech and every school in between, for attending this monumental event. We also thank the American Legion Post 1244, Whitman Principal John Murphy and his administrative team, Sheila Buhse and her amazing team in the South Huntington School Nutrition Program, and event facilitator Ann-Elizabeth Kenney, leadership teachers Lori Bolger and Kathleen O’Neill and their student committee members: Sean Rankel, Tiffany Dominguez, Alyssa Christiansen, Maxwell Fisher, Leonardo Montoya, Tyler Phelan, Yagmur Aykanat, Mycaela Riley, Colby Goldsmith, and Pamela Carey. 

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